John 4:5-42 -The Woman at the Well
The reason had to do with their history. Seven centuries before Christ (720 B. C.), there were only two kingdoms, Israel in the North and Judea in the South. Then the Assyrians defeated Israel and carried them into captivity, leaving just a few people behind. (2 Kings 17:6)
Jews had little to do with Samaritans. Jews tended to avoid even traveling through Samaria. That wasn’t easy, because Samaria was the middle kingdom, sandwiched between Jewish Galilee and Jewish Judea. A traveller from Judea to Galilee had to go through Samaria or to cross the Jordan River to by-pass Samaria. Most Jews would take the longer journey, spending extra days on the road to avoid contact with Samaritans.
As time passed, the people who had been left behind began to inter-marry foreigners, and the people who resulted from these marriages were the Samaritans.
In the enlightened day in which we live, that might not seem too serious, but it was serious to the Jews. They were God’s special people. By inter-marrying, the Samaritans lost their racial purity, and compromised their status as God’s special people.
A century and a half later, (586 B. C.) the people of Judea––the Southern Kingdom––suffered the same fate. They too were conquered and were carried into captivity––this time into Babylonia. But they stubbornly resisted inter-marriage, and thus maintained their identity as the special people of God.
A century later (450 B. C.), Ezra and Nehemiah returned from Babylon to restore Jerusalem and the temple. Samaritans came to help in this sacred task but were told that their help wasn’t wanted. Samaritans weren’t pure enough to help with this sacred task.
The Samaritans never forgot this insult, so they built their own temple at Mount Gerizim, and began to worship there. The walls between Jews and Samaritans were high and feelings were bitter.
But Jesus didn’t share this animosity towards Samaritans. Having to travel from Judea to Galilee, he chose to go through Samaria rather than by-passing it. You might think that he was just trying to save time if you didn’t know Jesus. But Jesus always sought out the outcasts of society––the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the lepers––and his travels through Samaria carried him through a nation of outcasts.
Jesus came to the little town of Sychar in Samaria and stopped at the well for a drink. A woman was there, drawing water. Usually, women came to the well in the mornings and evenings, but this woman came at noon. It was hot at noon, but she was alone at the well. That was best. She didn’t like to stand in line with the village women and endure awkward silence.
This woman usually arranged to be alone. She prized her solitude. Her loneliness hurt, but not as much as the unkind glances of the other women––or the sexual advances of the men.
But today, a strange man approached. She must have been disappointed because Jesus broke into her privacy. But perhaps he would ignore her. Men didn’t start conversations with women. The rule was,
“Let no one talk with a woman in the street,
no, not even with his own wife.”
But Jesus asked her, “Give me a drink” (v. 7). The woman was surprised. “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” (v. 9).
Jesus’ next words were curious:
“If you knew the gift of God,
and who it is who says to you, ‘Give me a drink,’
you would have asked him,
and he would have given you LIVING water” (v. 10),
The woman said:
“Sir, you have nothing to draw with,
and the well is deep;
from where then have you that living water?” (v. 11).
“Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again,
but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him
will never thirst again.
but the water that I will give him
will become in him a well of water
springing up to eternal life” (vv. 13-14).
The woman said to Jesus:
“Sir, give me this water,
so that I don’t get thirsty,
neither come all the way here to draw.” (v. 15).
Perhaps she spoke in jest, as if Jesus were a bit mad. But Jesus quickly brought her back to reality. “Go, call your husband, and come here” (v. 16).
She said, “I have no husband.” But Jesus responded:
“You said well, ‘I have no husband,’
for you have had FIVE husbands. (popular Lady)
and he whom you now have is NOT your husband” (vv. 17-18).
This was personal––just what the woman had been trying to avoid by coming to the well at noon.
“Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain.
and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship” (vv. 19-20),
But Jesus responded:
“Woman, believe me, the hour comes,
when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem,
will you worship the Father? You worship that which you don’t know.
We worship that which we know; for salvation is from the Jews.
But the hour comes, and now is,
when the true worshippers will worship the Father IN SPIRIT AND TRUTH,
for the Father seeks such to be his worshipers” (vv, 21-23).
Jesus was saying that the old rivalries were on the way out. Furthermore, because God is spirit, worship cannot confined to particular places, such as Mount Gerizim or Jerusalem. Worship is an affair of the heart, and true worship is a gift of our hearts.
The woman said,
“I know that Messiah comes,” (he who is called Christ).
When he has come, he will declare to us all things.” (v. 25).
Jesus said: “I am he, the one who speaks to you” (v. 26).
At that point, the woman left her water jar and ran into the city. “Come, see a man who told me everything that I did. Can this be the Christ?” (v. 29).
They came, and many of them “believed in Jesus BECAUSE OF THE WORD OF THE WOMAN” (v. 39).
How amazing! In that time and place, people didn’t take the word of a woman very seriously.
Until Jesus came along, this woman was practically invisible in her own town. No one would have sent her into town as their spokeswoman. But her contact with Jesus transformed her life and status in the community. The people heard her, and had said, “You are right. This is the saviour of the world” (the meaning of v. 42).
Now the people, who had always avoided this woman, spoke to her with respect.
• She had been INVISIBLE, but now she was SEEN.
• She had been LOST, but now was FOUND.
• She had been a SINNER, but now was REDEEMED.
William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, said: ‘Go for souls and go for the worst.’
That’s what Jesus did when he turned this outcast woman into a well-received evangelist.
Jesus does that. He changes people’s lives. Jesus especially loves to help outcasts because they most need help.
That’s the Good News of this text. In this encounter with the Samaritan woman, Jesus not only claims to be the Messiah––he demonstrates what that means when he changes this woman’s life.
This same Messiah changes our lives, Jesus stopped dying on the cross
long enough to answer the prayer of A THIEF. He stopped in a big crowd one day
because A WOMAN touched the hem of His garment. and He’ll stop to touch YOUR LIFE
and change you and forgive you. And that’s Good News.
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Paula Rose has a Bachelor of Pastoral Counselling and Theology, Vision Christian University, USA
Master of Arts In Counselling & Professional Development, specializing in Spiritual Abuse The University of Derby, UK.
BACP Life Coaching Course, Bristol, UK
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Paula is a life member of (ISFP) The International Society of Female Professionals
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